During citizen comment on September 18, 2012, a long time resident explains to council the difficulty he has had selling his property because of the “sensitive lands” overlay. He discusses the devaluation of this property and the particular unfair nature given that his family provided a “bargain sale” of two acres of the adjoining property in the 1990s as a means of protecting a wetland area at West Waluga Park. After the family graciously helped protect that wetland, the city placed a “sensitive lands” overlay on the remaining family owned acreage. We’re glad we have a new council that is more respectful of citizens.
During a study session on October 9, 2012, Councilor Mary Olson explains the unfair burden of “sensitive lands” and addresses the common misperceptions of this land use restriction. Thankfully, the 2013 City Council is working to make changes.
Thank you to Mayor Studebaker and Councilors Kehoe, Gudman, Bowerman and O’Neill for their votes in a 5 to 2 decision on March 19th to move forward with a proposal to create a more equitable, respectful and responsible approach to the “sensitive lands” program. This new approach finally addresses citizens’ concerns about “sensitive lands”:
- That “sensitive lands” is a political trade program, not an environmental program
- That property selections have been arbitrary and capricious
- That private property owners have been damaged by limited use and loss of value of their properties
- And that those with “sensitive lands” designations (10% of homeowners) are being sacrificed and traded for “public benefit”
Based on a proposal brought to Council last year by land use attorney Dave Hunnicutt of Oregonians in Action (see our July 24, 2012 post ), this new approach provides a fair, reasonable, common sense solution to citizens’ concerns. It recognizes that the 203 acres of private residential property currently burdened with sensitive lands, is not the most environmentally significant land and can be regulated like 90% of the community under the multitude of environmental regulations in the community development code and tree code. And, it recommends that about 200 acres of public park/natural areas be added to the “sensitive lands” program.
Revising where “sensitive lands” apply is a solution that actually is more beneficial to the environment as it protects the larger tracts of public park/natural areas that are more environmentally significant than citizens’ developed yards. It also actually is in closer alignment with Metro’s maps and intent. The proposal also includes the city increasing restoration and maintenance activities on our 600 acres of parks and natural areas, most of which a consultant says are currently in “poor” condition. And, it engages the entire community, not just the current 10%, in stewardship education so that we are all pulling together and invested in environmental issues in our community.
During the January 17, 2012 City Council meeting, LO Stewards PAC Treasurer, Bob Thompson, and Citizens for Stewardship of Lake Oswego Lands Board member, Lauren Hughes, review the “sensitive lands” trade of private residential property and ask Council for policy change. These clips offer a quick and thorough overview of the “trade” issue.
Clip on Left: Bob Thompson
Clip on Right: Lauren Hughes
More citizens have come forward to explain how “sensitive lands” reduces property value. Watch the short video clips of citizen testimony before city council about the loss of use and value of residential property because of arbitrary “sensitive lands” overlays.
From left to right:
Clip #1 Colin Grant speaking at the 7/10/12 public hearing.
Clip #2 Ed Brockman speaking at the 7/10/12 public hearing.
Clip #3 Chris Robinson speaking at the 1/17/12 Council meeting.
November 9, 2012 UPDATE: Congratulations to Mayor Elect Kent Studebaker and Councilors Elect Karen Bowerman, Skip O’Neill and Jon Gustafson.
The members of the LO Stewards PAC conducted individual interviews with all candidates for Lake Oswego Mayor and City Council positions and have attended several candidate forums. It was very clear that Mayoral candidate Kent Studebaker has citizens rights and interests as a top priority and would work to resolve the “sensitive lands” issue in a way that respects the rights of all private property owners. His opponent, Greg Macpherson, was not sympathetic to the arbitrary, inequitable and devaluing impacts that 10% of residential property owners have endured with “sensitive lands” and indicated that he would defer to Metro regarding this issue. Given his time in the State legislature, his Metro-centric approach, and his governor appointment to the State’s Land Conservation and Development Commission, we are very concerned that citizens will not receive consideration or fair resolution of “sensitive lands” if Mr. Macpherson is elected.
City Council candidates Dan Williams, Skip O’Neill and Karen Bowerman were all also very clear in their concern and respect for citizens and all three expressed a desire to resolve the “sensitive lands” issue to ensure fairness and respect for citizens’ properties. Incumbent Bill Tierney indicated to us that he can live with the inequities of the “sensitive lands” program, although he would not want a “sensitive lands” designation on his wooded property. Jon Gustafson indicated that he finds the “sensitive lands” program to be arbitrary and he acknowledged that it devalues property. He said that as a realtor and builder/remodeler, he personally would not purchase “sensitive lands” property. However, he wants to retain the program for private property but adjust it to regulate the “real resources”. Both he and Mr. Tierney greatly concern us in that they are willing to regulate others but not live under the regulation themselves. Terry Jordan was not aware of “sensitive lands” prior to our meeting.
We are fortunate to have four strong candidates in Studebaker, Williams, O’Neill and Bowerman who will fight for citizens’ rights and respect the property of all citizens. Please vote for Studebaker, Williams, O’Neill and Bowerman.
February 9, 2013 UPDATE: LUBA Appeal delayed until March 2013 due to the City’s request for an extension. Keep checking back for more information.
On 9/18/12, LO Stewards filed a Motion to Intervene on the side of the Respondent, City of Lake Oswego, regarding Metro’s appeal to LUBA regarding the City’s isolated tree grove decision. While we are usually not in agreement with the City about “sensitive lands”, the LO Stewards Board felt a responsibility to intervene on the side of the City in order to help protect citizens’ property rights.
Is Metro the Boss of Lake Oswego?
In the LO Review, LO Stewards board member Bob Thompson writes:
“Metro’s appeal to the state land use board (LUBA) is an aggressive, orchestrated political move against Lake Oswego citizens. ‘Big Brother’ Metro’s appeal is about drawing a line in the sand in advance of the proposal Councilor (Mary) Olson is preparing with city staff to provide broader reform to the ‘sensitive lands’ program. “
We’ve recently been questioned about whether “sensitive lands” is really a trade program. According to the city, the “sensitive lands” program provides smaller buffers on Metro Title 3 significant water resources with the justification being that regulation of upland treed areas and small drainage areas goes beyond what Metro requires. In other words, significant water areas get less regulation in exchange for regulation of upland treed areas and small drainage areas that actually are not required to have regulation. Sure sounds like a trade to us.
Click Here to view a tape of the City attorney’s explanation. (from the Sensitive Lands public meeting 9/21/09 at the WEB)
At the July 31, 2012 Council meeting, Dave Hunnicutt, an attorney with Oregonians in Action, presented his proposal for resolving the “sensitive lands” issue. Despite opposition from Mayor Hoffman and Councilor Jordan, it was agreed in a 4 (Olson, Kehoe, Gudman and Tierney) to 2 (Hoffman and Jordan) vote to allow Councilor Olson to move forward with city staff to develop a new compliance approach to resolve the “sensitive lands” issue. You can read Mr. Hunnicutt’s proposal in the July 24th post below.
This is a small step in the right direction. Stay tuned!
At the request of the Council Work Group charged with exploring options for resolving “sensitive lands”, Oregonians In Action (OIA) has provided a proposal that would remove “sensitive lands” designations from private residential property and add more public parks and natural areas to the “sensitive lands” program. This proposal allows all residential property owners to develop under the general code, providing equity for all; ensures that our public parks and natural areas are fully protected; and more closely meets the intent of State and Metro regulations. It’s a win-win-win proposal! We want Council to pass it and end this divisive issue by demonstrating a policy of respect for all residential property owners and a dedication to ensuring our public parks and natural areas are protected for the future. Click here to read the OIA policy proposal. Be sure to attend the July 31, 2012 study session to show your support and e-mail council at Councildistribution@ci.oswego.or.us asking that they pass this proposal.